Bioluminescence – Nature’s Magical Lights

When I conduct my weekly night-snorkelling trips in the house reef, one of the highlights for my guests and I is always the sheer abundance of bioluminescent plankton organisms. We switch our torches off for a minute and stir the water up with our fins and hands, making crustaceans, polychaetes and jellies produce tiny bright lights. The atmosphere becomes magical when you see all these stars below you in the water as well as the stars up in the sky. But even if you don’t go into the reef at night, you can witness bioluminescence. During many nights of the year, bright-blue spots can be seen on Maldivian beaches, lighting up when the waves hit the sand and fading after a few seconds. Some evenings are so spectacular (as was the case last night) that entire beach sections are aglow with millions of tiny lights that seem to brighten up even more when touched or walked on. Last night was truly a special night that was appreciated by everyone: All resort guests returning from our weekly General Manager’s cocktail party on the sandbank were playing with the glowing beach sand, taking lots of photos and generally being all in wonder of such rarely seen beauty. Luckily the moon was in its full glory too, so that its light helped expose the photos I took and contribute to the overall atmosphere.

The bioluminescence around Soneva Fushi is mainly caused by microscopic benthic crustaceans, Ostracoda. They are about 1 mm in length, flattened from side to side and protected by a bivalve-like calcareous shell. At night, the ostracods rise from the sandy sea floor, where they spend the day, and feed on planktonic algae. When the animals get disturbed, either through predators or the movement of waves, a light-emitting substance is ejected that deters predators. It is this light that makes our beaches glow. I collected Ostracoda samples today and looked at them under my microscope. They were all drawn to the light and seemed sensitive to the slightest changes in light direction. I also wanted to see whether they were possibly all getting ready to mate and therefore occurred in such large numbers last night. However, the animals contained eggs of different developmental stages, even fully developed embryos, so that I had to discard my little hypothesis of a mass mating event... If only I had more time to investigate all these exciting events happening around Soneva Fushi throughout the year, I am sure we could stumble on some interesting explanations of our observations! It is for these kind of experiences that I love being a marine biologist on this island!

Coral Trays and Stonefish – Expanding my Marine Biological “Feet-on“ Experiences

A strenuous month of work at Soneva Fushi lay behind me when I went to Soneva Gili a few days ago to continue the maintenance work on its artificial reef structures. These so-called coral trays were designed by a contracted local company, and as Soneva’s Area Marine Biologist, I was put in charge of the trays last year – and of fulfilling a lot of expectations. What the management wishes to achieve is the beautification of Soneva Gili’s shallow, sandy lagoon through localised coral- and fish-rich patches for guests to enjoy, especially under the spa’s treatment rooms and over-water guest villas. Due to the lack of light in those particular locations and the controversy about artificial reef growth in general, I have always been very reluctant to engage in a coral transplantation project, but after some discussions with different people was willing to at least experiment a bit and try.

For more than one-and-a-half years now, colleagues and I have been collecting broken coral fragments from different colonies in the nearby reef and lagoon, hammered them into smaller pieces, attached them to the rebar metal structure with a cable tie, scrubbed the trays if overgrown with algae and started the whole process again and again, if the corals didn’t grow as anticipated. Unfortunately, even in coral nursery areas set aside in sheltered locations out in the bright sun, the fragments often didn’t prosper, as they were negatively affected by the resort’s sand pumping, bad water circulation or other unfavourable conditions. It has been quite disheartening to see dark-green algae smothering the corals and many of our efforts in vain. On the other hand, I have also discovered lots of new-to-me species hiding amongst the algae and coral branches, as if the coral trays are an oasis for many planktonic organisms in a desert full of sand and currents. And some of the coral colonies have developed into extensive branches over many months! It was these well-developed coral trays that I moved under the spa’s treatment rooms on different occasions to see whether they would survive there. Sadly, it didn’t take long for the tiny polyps to feel stressed and bleach due to the lack of sunlight needed for their symbiotic algae. A few times I could save the remaining colonies, but most often I was too late, and the transplantation process had to start all over again. I am still unsure whether we will ever be able to keep viable coral trays in those shaded locations, even with a stringent rotation system in place, but will try once more just to have made the effort and be sure.

So how does the stonefish enter the story? Well, here it comes. My time at Soneva Gili was nearly finished, I had only the rotation of some coral trays under the spa left to do before leaving the country for a new adventure, when during the wading in the sandy lagoon at extremely low tide yesterday and the moving of one tray, I felt a fierce sting in my foot. At first I thought of a sharp coral piece but then saw blood emerging from two tiny pricks in my sole. The pain was unusually intense, too, so that I had a foreboding and checked the ground for a scorpionfish. At first: nothing; only algae and some dead coral rubble; but then a little lump that looked like a rock but felt soft, with eyes at the top and a grumpy mouth pointing up – a juvenile stonefish, the most venomous fish in the world! The pain grew more and more intense, and when I reached the spa and asked for my foot to be put in hot water as a first aid measure, I felt my body become quite weak and tense. Within the next hour, the spa team, the resort doctor and the management were up and running, gave me injections and organised a speedboat transfer to Male’ for better medical treatment, while I was in agony. Luckily, the painkillers started to work when I was at the hospital two hours after the incident, so that I didn’t suffer too long. A tetanus refresher, painkillers, antibiotics, antihistamines and some other antis have saved me from further infections, inflammations and worse problems ever since, but I must admit that I was lucky only to have stepped on a juvenile stonefish and not a fully-grown monster, as that could have turned out to be highly unpleasant. And even though I didn’t ask for the experience, it is in a way good to have a real-life story to pass on to my resort guests from now on!

Addu – Continuing my Dives in Beautiful Reefs

Once my superb dive safari with Jörg on board the “Mariana” had finished and we had reached the safe harbour off Hulhumale, I waved goodbye to my fellow divers and embarked on the second journey of my holidays – 10 days in the southernmost atolls of the Maldives, Addu and Fuvammulah! Both are situated south of the equator and are about an hour’s flight away from Male’. When crossing the 0° meridian, I was handed a certificate by the flight attendant and made aware that we are now in a different hemisphere. And when looking out the scratched windows glistening in the sun, I could see very long outer reefs stretching from north to south, but also the most beautiful string of little islands in Huvadhoo Atoll that appeared like a pearl necklace from above! I was definitely looking forward to experiencing the south!

Gan, the airport island in Addu and a former British naval base, was my home island for the first two days in Addu, which I wanted to use for scuba-diving. The coral in the south was said to be the best in the whole Maldivian archipelago and boast a diversity and growth similar to pre-bleaching times. Just as background information: A severe El Niño event in early 1998 with a subsequent rise in seawater temperature had caused the reef-building corals’ symbiotic green algae to dysfunction, consequently killed most of the shallow-water species in the Maldives and left the white, “bleached” limestone skeletons to crumble. In many areas in the Maldives, the live coral cover is still poor (15-25 %), but some reefs have recovered remarkably well and give reason for hope. As I had never really dived in pristine reefs in the area, I was excited about being able to see some coral-rich underwater sites in Addu. On Gan, I stayed at Equator Village, a budget hotel with very basic rooms and food. It had a busy dive centre with many German and Russian guests, though, and I was pleased finally being able to meet the base leader Axel Horn, who has developed a good reputation over the many years he has worked in the Maldives.

The three dives I made in Addu were wonderful. The first one was at the “British Loyalty”, the largest ship wreck in the Maldives, which was beautifully covered with table, soft and black corals, had a pink leaf scorpionfish and a curious octopus sitting on it and lay on its starboard. The “British Loyalty” was an oil tanker torpedoed in 19944 and still has black oil drops emerging from its interior! Nothing has been done so far to rectify the situation, even though this leaking of oil has certainly been a threat to the environment… The other two dives happened in the northern and eastern reefs of Addu Atoll. Particularly the cave systems, the enormous drop-offs and the reef top in the north were amazing! Nurse sharks, Indian Butterflyfish and lots of bluish soft corals inhabited the caves, while the shallow top reef was 100 % covered by diverse hard coral stands! I didn’t want to come up to the surface anymore, there was just so much to discover!

Hopefully this won’t be the last time I saw the reefs of Addu Atoll! It would probably be great to join one of Jörg’s two-week safaris and then cover the southern atolls with its beautiful reefs and big fish.

Maldives Underwater – Cruising Around the Atolls and Discovering New Reefs

Even though I have the opportunity to go scuba-diving free of charge at Soneva Fushi, I hardly ever use the chance because I am so wrapped up in other projects and have my regular guest snorkelling trips anyway. The only time I can really add more entries in my dive logbook is during holidays – Palau and Indonesia last year were perfect for that purpose and offered so many highlights! During this year’s spring break, however, I wanted to explore the Maldives further and thus signed up for a one-week dive safari with a former colleague and dive instructor friend at Soneva Fushi. Jörg now runs regular dive trips through different atolls on his liveaboard “Mariana” and must have about 20 years of experience diving and living in the Maldives – very impressive!

Once we had picked up the 13 other diving guests, who happened to be all German speakers, Jörg, Marco and Ratana as the leaders of the dive safari took us by local wooden dhoni from Male’s International Airport to the liveaboard vessel, which was parked in the lagoon off Hulhumale’. The “Mariana” was a beautiful boat, had comfortable double rooms and a wooden interior. I lived on the outside deck, as all rooms were occupied by the full-paying divers, and did not mind that at all: the air was fresh, the temperature was perfect for sleeping, and the 6 a.m. sunrises above the still ocean gave me an extraordinary start into the day. Our days were packed with three dives, sunbathing, reading, eating, sleeping, and I also gave talks in the evenings for interested guests… ah, what a holiday! We all got along really well and often spent quality time together in the salon on the main deck; we had many laughs and good discussions about bio food, investment funds and books to read, apart from the fish and other sea life we saw.

The diving itself was superb. The “Mariana” took us from Male’ to different reefs in South Male’, then northern Felidhoo and then southern and central Ari Atoll before heading back to Male’. I had never been to these places before and was excited being able to see so many new islands and reefs. As the diving in Baa Atoll, where Soneva Fushi is located, mainly concentrates on the local thilas and giris, it was particularly thrilling for me to dive on the atolls’ outer rim and seeing sharp drop-offs, current-swept reef communities and “charismatic megafauna” like Hawksbill Turtles, Grey Reef Sharks (even one Hammerhead Shark!) and several ray species. Jörg, Marco and Ratana were wonderful guides and great at also pointing out smaller fish and invertebrates: Longnose Filefish, Leaf Fish, Halimeda Ghost Pipefish, lots of Honeycomb Morays, nudibranchs, flatworms and crustaceans definitely made the trip more than worthwhile for me! And even though we didn’t see any real Whale Sharks in southern Ari Atoll but I instead was fooled by a real-looking “stranded” Whale Shark made of sand on a picnic island, it was great being out on the water for this week! Thank you to Jörg, Marco, Ratana and the rest of the boat crew and divers for such a great experience!

Watching all these wonderful animals once again made me realise, however, how obvious the rapid decline in shark and turtle populations in Baa Atoll has become. When I started working at Soneva Fushi about four years ago, in March 2005, there were several dozens of juvenile Blacktip Reef and Lemon Sharks in our lagoon, Grey Reef Sharks would inhabit a lagoon at Anga Faru, Green Turtles would come and lay their eggs on our beaches, and spiny lobsters would be plentiful to see during night-snorkels or -dives. When walking around the island this year, you would be able to see neither sharks nor turtle nests, and only occasionally some lobsters! Instead, finned sharks would sometimes be found on the sea floor, staff at Soneva Fushi would tell me about their latest turtle or turtle egg meal in their home island, and the number of local, wild-caught fish purchased by resorts would continue to be unsustainable. Despite my presence and continued efforts to make our hosts and guests more aware of good environmental practices, the natural environment of the Maldives just seems to be in constant decline, which is personally very frustrating. The government of the Maldives has started a Baa Atoll conservation programme a couple of years ago and currently looks at potential marine protected areas, better waste management facilities and sustainable income opportunities for the local communities, which are all of great social and environmental importance for the atoll. There is even talk of making Baa Atoll a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve for its unique natural features and community engagement! All of these plans sound promising, and I will maintain my optimism and drive to make this small world a better place; on the other hand, I fear that many of these efforts will come too late in this quickly changing environment and culture…

Singharaja – Endemic Birds and Inquisitive Young People

I wanted to spend the last full day of my Sri Lankan holidays in one of the many nature reserves to learn more about the country’s biodiversity and to take photos. I would have loved to visit Yala National Park with its incredible wildlife again, which I had already been to with my brother just before the 2004 tsunami. However, the distance to get there was too great, so that I preferred to settle for something easier to reach. Singharaja Rainforest Reserve in the southwestern part of Sri Lanka sounded the most tempting, as it was said to be the last pristine stretch of rainforest on the island and to host many endemic birds and plants. I had arranged a car and driver, who would safely take me from Nuwara Eliya to Singharaja’s western entrance, and had also booked my accommodation in Martin’s Lodge, a simple but very popular place right next to the park entrance, which I reached after 7 long hours in the car and a steep climb up from the rangers’ office. The guide taking me there used his chance efficiently and persuaded me to book him as a guide that same evening as well as on the following day. He was nice alright but annoyed me by flicking his cigarette butts on the ground and being a bit too curious. Since my time was limited though and I didn’t want to argue, I settled with him. That same evening we went out on a quick birding tour, we saw and heard several species, and I gained a better feeling for the rainforest.

The next day was packed with nature experiences. In the morning we climbed up one of the peaks in Singharaja, allowing me to see the unlimited rainforest canopy from the top, as well as little frogs, colourful lizards and huge spiders. In the afternoon, we went bird-watching and again saw and heard several species: drongos, flycatchers, magpies, sunbirds, parakeets, mynas, junglefowl etc., many of which can only be found in Sri Lanka. The giants of the forest mainly comprise the Dipterocarpaceae, a tree family I had already encountered in Vietnam’s rainforests. One of the species was a Nawada tree, which also reached great dimensions and was said to be hundreds of years old. Singharaja was unusually dry, however. It hadn’t rained for a few weeks, many leaves were dead and the undergrowth sparse. “Normally you can’t see very far, as the vegetation is so lush and dense”, my guide explained. Hopefully the rain starts setting in soon again, as the ecosystem with its intricate network of relationships wouldn’t function properly without it anymore.

The dearest memories I have of my Singharaja visit do not involve the beautiful birds and reptiles, however, but incredibly interesting people. During my two nights at the lodge, I became acquainted with a local tour guide, Amila, and his Swedish guest, Andreas, who just seemed to know every living thing in the forest and ticked off the birds they had seen on a long list. It was a joy to see them so devoted to their bird species, and I was reminded of a hilarious newspaper article I once read about super-keen birders and their excitement when seeing a rare but dull-grey-brown bird (an LBJ, a “little brown job”)… Rahula was another great inspiration. Based at the Zoology Department of the University of Colombo and as part of the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka, he conducts regular field trips and rainforest interpretation sessions for local school children and has visited Singharaja many times. It was wonderful discussing environmental awareness programmes with him, as a lot of our interests overlapped and we could share some experiences. At the time when I was in Singharaja, he and his colleagues were conducting a three day field trip with children from northern Sri Lanka’s Polonnaruva – the first time for the young people to be in a rainforest and see pitcher plants, Blue Magpies, tree ferns and orb spiders. It was also one of the first times for them to be with a “tourist”, so they all inspected me from a distance, watched silently as I ate my dinner and secretly took pictures of me. A brave young girl finally took a deep breath and approached me, asking me all sorts of questions about what I do and where I come from and, having received the answers, acknowledged them with the typical headshake that always makes me smile. This made the others more confident, too, so that by the time we were ready for departure I was being interviewed by several inquisitive youths.

Rahula and his colleagues kindly offered me a free ride back to Colombo this morning, he showed me his workplace and made sure I got on the right taxi to the city centre. A wonderful acquaintance! Because of the political instability in the region, all car passengers got frequently checked along the road by policemen, but luckily I never had to show them my passport or other documents. It is sad to see so many armed men in the streets and to recognise that the tourist flow to this beautiful corner of the world has almost ceased because of the war in the north. I do hope that Sri Lanka finds its way out of this crisis soon and continues to attract travellers to its many natural and cultural wonders.

Nuwara Eliya - Cold Nights and Hot Tea

Colombo has a number of pretty shops with local handicrafts, fabrics and clothes, all for rather little money, which I wanted to explore on my second full day in Colombo. Luckily I didn’t have to go by myself. Felicia, another Soneva Fushi friend, offered her wonderful company and saved me from a lot of confusion and rip-off. With Felicia’s help, the tuk-tuk drivers charged reasonable (local) prices without a lot of discussion and safely drove us from one shop to the next. Having a local companion also gave me a much better overview over Colombo; Felicia was the perfect tour guide and, as usual, made me laugh so many times. After our successful shopping trip, we treated ourselves to afternoon High Tea at the Galle Face Hotel, which included tea and cakes and short-eats without end and which left us with nothing else to wish for.

As expected, my new temporary passport was ready to be picked up on Wednesday (after only two working days and no bureaucratic hurdle, great!), so that I was able to leave the capital and travel towards the high country in the interior. Unfortunately, all trains going towards Kandy and Nuwara Eliya (my preferred mode of transport in Sri Lanka, as the countryside you get to see is just stunning) had already left in the morning, so that I was obliged to hop on a bus. I was assured that there are many air-conditioned busses available for only a little extra charge, but when the taxi driver dropped me off at one of the huge public bus stations, all I could find were rusty, smelly, crowded busses… My backpack and I had no choice but to squeeze into one of them and be stuck in it for about 6 hours all the way to Nuwara Eliya, my next destination. Even though there really was hardly any space, my neighbour would fall asleep on my shoulder several times and I could not understand, why salesmen would offer plastic drawing boards, torches or dusty handkerchiefs to the bus passengers (and actually get them sold!), I had a good and safe and cheap journey. Travelling as the locals do opens your eyes to the real life in a country, offers you a look behind the façade, sometimes even establishes great contacts and makes your day. After having passed numerous scruffy little villages and towns on the way to Kandy, the landscape now opened up a bit more and gave way to tea plantations and green hills before reaching Nuwara Eliya. I arrived in the city centre when it was already dark and was prepared to be immediately surrounded by touts. Luckily only one was quite pushy trying to convince me of the qualities of his own lodge but I stayed firm and asked him to get taken to a guesthouse I had chosen based on guidebook recommendations. When I arrived at the guesthouse, I made immediate contact with two other travellers and decided to join them for dinner at the Hill Club, a preserve built for the British colonial elite, which until 1970 was only open to men. The food was alright, the prices steep and the rooms grand but a bit shabby and very old-fashioned. I preferred my little cheap hotel and spent a cold night under a cosy thick blanket.

The following day was dedicated to my favourite drink, tea. Camellia sinensis, the tea plant, grows in both low and high altitude regions of Sri Lanka and has become one of the country’s main export products. The tea around Nuwara Eliya and Hatton in the cool, misty mountains grows slower than in the warm regions and is therefore said to be more aromatic. A short drive out of the city centre, Pedro Estate’s tea factory allows visitors in and provides them with valuable information about the journey of the tea leaf from tea bush to tea bag. I had visited this processing plant previously, in 2004 together with my brother Henrik, and was therefore surprised to find that the education facilities had improved so much – and that no photography inside the factory was allowed any longer. I was greeted with a steaming cup o’ tea and invited for a private show-around of the facilities. Here a quick overview of the tea processing stages: picking of the youngest tea leaves (the three top-most leaves) in the plantation, withering (air-drying) to remove water, rolling to oxidise the cells and release the tannins (“fermentation”), sifting to separate twigs from leaves, baking to completely dry the leaves, sifting again to grade the tea according to its quality, packaging, and quality control. When my tour was finished, I saw some German guests just starting their show-around and decided to join them once more; this time we were a bit naughty and took some photos of the factory.

In the afternoon, I joined a group of tea pluckers and followed them into the tea plantations, which was a wonderful opportunity to get in contact with the colourfully dressed ladies and take many photographs. Everybody was very friendly, tried to speak English, asked me about my family and job, described their daily routine and was happy to be included in photos. I left them a good tip, which was much appreciated considering that each woman only earns about USD 2 a day for 8 hours in the field. I was very happy about this relaxing day and returned to my lodge in the late afternoon in order to make arrangements for my next travels.

Colombo – Catching up with Cultural Highlights, Colonial Architecture and Café Lattes

After having spent many consecutive months on tiny Maldivian islands it was time again for a short break – on a bigger island! I chose to go to Sri Lanka mainly for the purpose of renewing my passport but since I hadn’t visited the country for about 4.5 years (my brother Henrik and I were in Sri Lanka last just a few weeks before the tsunami shattered the region), I was looking forward to spending some more time in the cool high-altitude tea plantations, in rainforests teeming with wildlife and amongst the welcoming locals. I have arranged to be here for one week, from Sunday to Sunday, and hope that the good times continue in the same fashion as they had started yesterday and today.

After a perfectly-timed flight by seaplane from Soneva Fushi to Male’ and a short connecting flight from Male’ to Colombo, I found myself stretching on the hotel bed for a minute and immediately receiving a welcoming phone call from my friend Dilhani. She is a Colombo-native and had worked in my Maldivian resort for a number of years before moving to Australia, marrying Adam (another Soneva Fushi colleague) and getting pregnant with their child. They are now back in Colombo, which is great for me, as I can enjoy their wonderful company and get to see things I would otherwise miss. Such as the huge Buddhist celebration that took place in the city centre last night right after my arrival! “Duruthu Perahera”, a colourful and cheerful parade of hundreds of dressed-up, acrobatic and musical religious followers (and dozens of elephants!), apparently takes place once a year before a full moon public holiday and attracts hundreds of visitors. This year I was one of them and, together with Dilhani, her mum, Adam and their friends, sat on the roadside and admired the different groups that were passing by with whistles, whips, fire wheels and drums. In between all these human bodies and loud sounds there were beautifully dressed elephants that belonged to different temples in the country. One of them transported a highly meaningful temple item and was only raised for the purpose of carrying this statue once a year; it was only allowed to tread on a white lane of cloth, never directly touching the road! I wondered how all these elephants could stay so calm, slowly trotting down the main street, but then saw the chains between their legs and the sharp hooks the elephant keepers carried… This whole parade went on for quite a few hours and only finished around 10 p.m.!

Today I focussed on getting my temporary passport sorted out and visited the German embassy in the morning. If all goes well, I will be able to receive the updated version within two days, which means that I can then leave Colombo and travel around the more attractive Sri Lankan interior. Dilhani was again a saviour when she helped me with money changers and phone cards – a public holiday, as it is today, means that almost everything is closed, the streets are rather empty and life almost stands still. After a nice South Asian lunch with Dilhani and her mum I strolled through the very picturesque and historic Galle Face Hotel and treated myself to three (!) café lattes and a piece of cheesecake while reading a book in a very comfortable corner of the hotel’s Tea Lounge. I may spoil myself tomorrow again and attend the official High Tea ceremony in the afternoon! It is certainly a great experience being in such cultured and sophisticated surroundings again after so many months of “deprived” island life!

A Stranded Whale and a Missed Opportunity

A few days ago, I received a phone call from a colleague telling me that a “big dolphin” had been found dead on our neighbouring island Eydhafushi. People were getting ready to take the carcass to an uninhabited island next door to bury it on the beach – which meant that no time was to be wasted to get over there by boat and inspect the animal. As I was in the middle of meetings, I couldn’t leave straight away, but managed to get in touch with colleagues in the Marine Research Centre in Male’, who informed me about the details they would need about the stranded dolphin. After another hour of meetings, I could hop on a speedboat with a friend, enjoyed the sun and the flying fish the boat disturbed during its speedy trip, and already saw from afar that the animal had luckily not been buried yet.
When I arrived at Maadhoo, about 20 men from Eydhafushi were busy pulling the animal ashore using ropes and sticks. The skin on the back was already damaged and bleeding but otherwise the “big dolphin” seemed intact. And a big animal it was! With a length of 5.15 m and a circumference of 3.05 m, it was clearly not a dolphin, and a look into its mouth confirmed that it was not. It had only two tusk-like teeth in the lower jaw, as opposed to many teeth that dolphins have in both jaws, and was a member of the Beaked Whales! We are still not sure what species of Beaked Whale exactly we had in front of us but a Cuvier’s Beaked Whale seems like the most probable candidate, as it is common in the Maldives. I took some skin and blubber samples and froze them for further analysis by the Marine Research Centre team. Hopefully we will also be able to secure the skeleton in the future. As to the cause of death: I could not see any external injuries and found no items in its mouth, it may well have been a natural death at sea. Hopefully.

Interestingly, very little is known about these deep-diving, squid-eating whales. In retrospect, I am therefore upset with myself that I didn’t take the chance to cut the recently-dead animal open and inspect the stomach contents for food remains or parasites. It may have been a welcome bonus for biologists studying whales. However, since my visit to the carcass was a last-minute activity and I feared that the “dolphin” had already been buried, I guess I did not fully anticipate the opportunities. I have learned something and next time will be better prepared.

Happy New Year!

Whoa, we made it into another year, time just flies! If you haven’t received any lines from me by email or letter yet, please accept my best wishes for 2009 via this route – Happy New Year to all of you! As in the previous year, Christmas and New Year’s at the resort were just normal working days for me, pampering the guests with snorkel trips and writing up some environmental information for different journalists. We did, however, have some turkey in the host canteen for Christmas Day and a great party on the newly opened host bar dance floor, which lasted well into the New Year. Many of the palm trees on the island are currently beautifully decorated with lights, and red ribbons and green branches complement the natural Christmas look of Soneva Fushi. It is quite hard for me to get into the right mood, though, as the sun keeps shining, the tropical sea is lukewarm and I haven’t had any days off in the last three weeks. But anyhow, a new year with lots of new opportunities and adventures is lying ahead, which I’m looking forward to!

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